Parents Say Lead Testing Law Could Mean Higher Prices

Some worry testing requirements will make kids' clothing more expensive

Some parents say a new law meant to protect children from lead paint in toys goes too far and will drive clothing prices up.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires extensive testing on toys and infant products before they are sold. The act also bans lead and other harmful chemicals in toys. It goes into effect Feb. 10.

Testing on clothing for children ages 12 and younger are also included.

Jill Scott, a mother of four in The Colony, said the law has good intentions. But she said she fears the third-party testing will only make clothing more expensive.

"I'm afraid that the other new clothes will be higher in price, and if that's the case, they get five outfits -- that's it," she said.

Scott's youngest children are triplets. A strict budget is the only way she and her husband can pay the bills, she said.

Scott spends $100 a week on formula and $40 a week on diapers. All of her children's clothes are from consignment stores. She said she paid "probably $3" for one pair of jeans.

"I have a set limit," she said. "I don't pay more than $5 for an item."

Lead can be found in buttons or charms on clothing and on appliques that are added to fabric.

Many clothing retailers say they are unhappy with law because they have to discard loads of children clothing.

But a partial reprieve is possible. Reportedly, the Consumer Product Safety Commission will consider exempting clothing and toys made of natural materials such as wool or wood.

The commission does not have the authority to change the law, but can decide how to interpret it.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was one of the co-sponsors of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Calls to her press office were not returned Monday.

Sen. John Cornyn also voted for the bill. His response is posted below:

Thank you for contacting me about consumer safety. I share your concerns regarding the safety of consumer goods, and I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this important matter.

Recent revelations of tainted imports and other consumer goods are troubling to all Americans. To address this critical issue, President George W. Bush established the Interagency Working Group on Import Safety by Executive Order on July 18, 2007. Led by the President's cabinet secretaries, this working group thoroughly reviewed our nation's supply chain to identify risks and make recommendations on how best to improve product safety in the marketplace. The working group concluded that no single stage in the supply chain-from foreign manufacturers and exporters to domestic importers and retailers-bears full responsibility for recent product recalls. Therefore, it is important to detect vulnerability in each stage of the supply chain and respond with a comprehensive policy that ensures public safety.

An important step toward reform came on July 31, 2008, when the Senate approved the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act (P.L. 110-314). This legislation will bolster the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal agency that inspects consumer products and enforces compliance. Furthermore, P.L. 110-314 updates product safety standards beginning with toys and other children's products by banning six categories of phthalate chemicals and all measurable traces of lead from toys, while also requiring independent laboratory safety testing of all children's products. P.L. 110-314 will modernize product labels to make it easier for parents and consumers to determine if a product they have purchased has been recalled, and for the first time retailers will be prohibited from selling items that are subject to a recall.

Because the volume of children's products required to meet new safety standards is large, P.L. 110-314 allows the CPSC to designate accredited third-party laboratories to inspect and approve products designed or intended primarily for children aged 12 and younger. The CPSC is required to issue accreditation requirements for such laboratories and maintain a list of accredited laboratories; deadlines for the publication of such requirements differ according to the type of product being tested by the laboratory.

Many manufacturers of children's products are concerned with how the CPSC will implement these testing requirements-chiefly with the costs associated with third-party testing. As a result, the CPSC is currently soliciting comments from manufacturers and the public as regulations pertaining to this section of the law are written. It is your right as a citizen to participate in the regulatory process. The CPSC has established the following website where may find more information regarding upcoming meetings in your area, how to submit your comments and recommendations, and how to join a mailing list for updates on CPSC developments:

I am encouraged by your willingness to participate in the regulatory process, and you may be certain that I will keep your concerns in mind should relevant legislation be considered by the Senate. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

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